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Protesting Board Halves Pay of Jurors to $5 per Day

July 22, 1987|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times County Bureau Chief

Caught by surprise and protesting all the way, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday followed the lead of San Diego and Los Angeles supervisors and voted to cut jurors' daily pay from $10 to $5.

The supervisors said that, at a time when they are wrestling with employee layoffs to try to balance the county budget, they could not make up the $565,000 they will lose in state funds for jurors.

Since 1985 the state had paid $5 per day to jurors, and the county had paid the other $5. But a recently passed state law canceled the state reimbursement as of July 1.

Orange County's jury commissioner, Alan Slater, said the county would cut pay to the $5 total with the batch of jurors called for duty Aug. 3.

"I don't think it's a good policy" to cut the fees, Slater said.

Raising jury fees "permits employers to be relieved somewhat of the burden of supplying jurors," he said, because many companies pay the difference between a worker's normal pay and the jury fees for part or all of the time the worker is on jury duty.

When fees are cut and companies have to pick up the difference, "their policies tend to change, and they don't subsidize people on jury duty," Slater said. "Those people are excused on hardship, and we lose access to them."

Supervisor Don R. Roth said he was particularly upset that the county received no notice that the legislation was on its way to approval from its lobbyist in Sacramento or the county's legislators.

"How in the world did (the legislation) ever pass without this board being aware of it?" Roth asked County Administrative Officer Larry Parrish. "This is unbelievable."

Parrish said the state's trial lawyers suggested ending the state subsidy, but he did not say why. He did say he would explore whether legislation could be introduced to reverse the state action.

"It's tough to get people to serve on jury duty," Roth said. "It's tough to convince people they're doing something for America and the whole thing."

The reduced fee "doesn't even pay for parking," he said.

Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez said jurors summoned to serve at the courts in downtown Santa Ana were told they could park free west of Eddie West Field, but he said there was a problem with "finding your vehicle either all or partially disassembled when you return."

Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder said that the county supervisors' "hands are being forced by the state" and that "you can't fight City Hall."

Wieder said supervisors would cut the fee to $5 only "under protest," a phrase with which Vasquez agreed.

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